Key Additions: Emmanuel Mudiay, Nikola Jokic, Nick Johnson, Kostas Papanikolaou
Key Subtractions: Ty Lawson
Outlook: The Denver Nuggets remind me of the Houston Rockets a few years ago being “stuck”. They are not good enough to contend, but they not bad enough to receive top talent in the draft. Fortunately for Houston, they were able to trade for James Harden. They are high on their first round pick Emmanuel Mudiay. They still have players that can put in the ball in the basket (Gallinari, Chandler, Foye). They still have a rebounding machine in Faried (if only he can develop a post game). The fact remains unless they find a player with a true low post presence and actually make any effort in playing some defense, they will continue to be the team that you see today instead of the team that made the playoffs 10 consecutive seasons not too long ago.
Key Additions: Karl-Anthony Towns, Nemanja Bjelica, Damjan Rudez, Andre Miller, Tyus Jones
Key Subtractions: Chase Budinger, Robbie Hummel, Justin Hamilton
Outlook: I jumped on the Andrew Wiggins bandwagon at the beginning of his rookie season. He is going to be a star in due time. This team will soon erase the years of sitting through the Kevin Love years into something exciting and prosperous. With the addition of Karl-Anthony Towns, and having veteran leadership like Andre Miller and Kevin Garnett, I expect this T’Wolves team to become this decade’s Oklahoma City Thunder team in a year or two. However for this season, they should be one of the most exciting teams to watch and may steal a few games.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Key Additions: Cameron Payne, Josh Huestis
Key Subtractions: Perry Jones, Jeremy Lamb
Outlook: The long-awaited return of Kevin Durant plus the triple-threat machine Russell Westbrook puts this team back in the elite category. The Thunder has been the forgot team in the Western Conference because of the Kevin Durant foot injury that cost him to miss the entire 2014-15 season. In that time frame, long time Thunder coach Scott Brooks was let go. Billy Donovan is now the guy leading the charge in his first time on the big stage. However, there a few unknowns heading into this season. Will Kevin Durant reclaim his status as a top 2 player in the league? Will the Thunder become elite contenders again? Will Kevin Durant resign with the Oklahoma City Thunder in the offseason? Only time will tell but don’t be surprised if they are playing basketball in June.
Portland Trail Blazers
Key Additions: Mason Plumlee, Ed Davis, Noah Vonleh, Al-Farouq Aminu, Gerald Henderson, Maurice Harkless
Key Subtractions: LaMarcus Aldridge, Robin Lopez, Nicolas Batum, Wesley Matthews, Aaron Afflalo, Steve Blake
Outlook: The Trail Blazers lost 80% of their starting lineup in free agency in the first week. Damien Lillard is the official franchise cornerstone and his help is lackluster. The team will be going through some growing pains and I’m not sure how the process will take, but we will truly see if Lillard can make the best out of a bad situation. This team will be a lottery team this season.
Key Additions: Trey Lyles, Tibor Pleiss, Raul Neto
Key Subtractions: Jeremy Evans
Outlook: This team is very young and far from being a playoff contender. It didn’t help that Donte Exum tore his ACL over the summer. I like Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, and Trey Burke as solid role players for a contender, but unless they take their game to the next level quickly, the Utah Jazz will remain towards the bottom of the bucket. Will this franchise begin to swim or are they going to keep drowning? I expect about the same this year as the previous few unless somebody proves me wrong.